A warehouse execution system is software that manages, optimizes and directs the physical work processes (picking, receiving, replenishment, etc.) in a warehouse or distribution center. A WES typically integrates with a warehouse management system (WMS), enterprise resource planning system (ERP) or other inventory management software.
Warehouse execution systems have been around in various forms since the early 2000s. They provide DCs with flexible and efficient material handling processes – both automated and manual. While WMS systems typically include system-directed picking, replenishment and other functions, WES systems add sophisticated process optimization capabilities. WES vastly improve the productivity, efficiency and throughput of core DC activities. WES systems take two main forms – automated WES and manual WES.
Two Types of Warehouse Execution Systems
1) Automated Warehouse Execution Systems
Many of today’s WES products evolved from an existing warehouse control system (WCS). WCS software controls conveyors, sorters and other warehouse automation that move totes, cases and pallets within a facility.
In effect, automated warehouse execution systems combine a WCS with a layer of work planning, release and management capabilities. They coordinate and synchronize the handling and movement of products via automation.
Some WES products may also manage pick-to-light or put-to-light systems, but they typically do not direct the work performed by people. Instead, most WES systems defer to a WMS or other system to direct manual picking and other processes.
2) Manual Warehouse Execution Systems
Manual warehouse execution systems are similar to automated warehouse execution systems, but offer more intelligence, orchestration and optimization across end-to-end warehouse processes – picking, receiving, putaway, sortation, loading, audit, replenishment, cycle count, slotting, labor planning, etc.
These solutions typically use order, inventory, and task information from a DC’s inventory planning system (WMS or other) and reuse and extend existing WCS (and automated WES) systems.
And beyond just optimizing people, manual warehouse execution systems help DCs orchestrate and optimize resources – people, robots, inventory – across IT and automation systems.
What Are the Benefits?
Manual warehouse execution systems, like the Warehouse Optimization Suite, empower companies to meet new market demands by setting new standards for employee productivity and accuracy, improving management effectiveness and evolving with businesses.
1) Maximize productivity and throughput – Reduce travel and maximize productivity with AI-based travel optimization (Intelligent batching and path optimization). These AI optimization tools enable warehouses to get more products out the door with the same amount of people, helping distributors overcome the current labor shortage.
2) Increase worker efficiency and morale – Easy to use multi-modal mobile applications help make work for warehouse workers easier, faster and more fun. These mobile applications improve the mechanics of hands-on task by utilizing voice direction, speech recognition, barcode scanning, display technology and other mobile technologies.
3) Reduce training time- Reduce time spent training and onboarding new warehouse workers with intelligent voice systems that utilizes speech recognition technology that doesn’t require voice training.
4) Optimize people and robots- Optimize the productivity of people and robots by coordinating work simultaneously with intelligent work orchestration.
5) Optimize inventory- Place inventory in the most efficient slots (reducing travel time) with dynamic slotting. These dynamic slotting solutions utilize AI-based algorithms to enable managers to make efficient slotting moves in advance of changing conditions.
6) Increase accuracy – Increase accuracy rates to 99.99% with efficient pick and put validations (checkstrings) and optimized audit criteria.
7) Extend current systems – Reuse and extend current system capabilities (ERP, WMS, WCS, LMS, etc.).
8) Improve worker safety- Improve worker safety with hands and eyes free voice-directed applications. Operations that add voice solution typically see a decrease in accidents.
9) Minimize labor – Minimize labor with predictive workforce planning.
10) Improve manager effectiveness – Improve manager effectiveness with a management dashboard the provides manager real-time visibility and control of operations.
Is a Warehouse Execution Solution Right For You?
To help warehouses and DCs conceptualize their own optimal process – and to begin to further evaluate execution solutions and estimate end-state productivity and accuracy gains –Lucas offers an operations assessment service.
The purpose of the assessment is to identify specific opportunities in your facility where improvements can be made with warehouse optimization solutions.
Many of the process improvement ideas that come out of the assessment will involve the application of new technologies (voice, scanning and device displays, etc.) in a new user workflow, along with other optimization technologies (such as batch algorithms and pick-path optimization engines). Get a free assessment today by talking to one of our warehouse experts.